Kansas History and Heritage Project- Marshall County

Marshall County
Catholic Churches


A great tide of emigration from Eastern states and from European countries, swept over Kansas between the years 1854 and 1865, when the country was opened by the United States government to settlers.

The new settlers represented different nationalities and different creeds. The two localities where Catholics settled in early days and founded colonies were Irish creek in the southeast and St. Bridget in the northeast of the county.

The settlers who came between the years 1857-1860 were Daniel, Jerry and Dennis Donahy, John Doud, William Thomas, John and Daniel Nolan, Thomas and Edward McNieve, Patrick, Ned, Mike and Herbert Burk, the Greggs, William Kennedy, Harrington, Grimes and William Handeshan. The pioneer settler was followed by the pioneer priest.

The Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary's and the Benedictine Fathers from Atchison would travel over the prairies of Kansas and visit the early settlers, and have mass in private houses and dug-outs.


In 1865 Father William Fitzgerald made his home among the settlers of Irish creek. The Gregg family donated a strip of land along the creek for church purposes. The location was in the northeast quarter of section 20, Cleveland township. Here they found plenty of timber to build the church, and shade and shelter for the teams in summer and winter.

The first church, a structure twenty-eight by fifty feet, was built mostly out of native lumber and dedicated to St. Joseph. Some years later an addition was put to this church. With the erection of the church came the building of a parish house for the priest.

Some of the successors of Father Fitzgerald were Fathers Daily, Hudson, Butler, Weikmann, Meile, Stack, John Ward, now bishop of Leavenworth; Fathers Meehan, Jennings and Michel.

The Rev. Father Fitzgerald procured a ten-acre tract of land one-half mile away from the church for a cemetery. It had always been the desire of many to have the church and house near the cemetery. In 1902 Father William Michel built a new parish house, and hall and bought two acres of ground opposite the cemetery. On this piece of land he built the parish house, a beautiful brick veneer structure.

In 1904 the church was moved from the creek to the new site. A year after Father Patrick O'Sullivan succeeded Father Michel as pastor of Irish creek. During this time a new railroad was built from Topeka to Marysville and a new town was laid out one mile east of the church. The town was called Lillis. in honor of the bishop of the diocese, Rt. Rev. Francis Lillis, D. D. The question then arose to move St. Joseph's church to the town of Lillis. The congregation was divided on the matter and it was finally decided by vote, in presence of Rt. Rev. Bishop Ward, to leave the church at the old place opposite the cemetery.

In 1910 Rev. Father Fitzgerald succeeded Father O'Sullivan. The Rt. Rev. Bishop had given orders to build a new church and Father Fitzgerald set to work to take up subscriptions and get the plans for the new building. A rock church was decided on, fifty by one hundred and ten feet, Roman in style. The rocks were quarried three miles west of the church and the basement and foundations were finished in the summer of 1912. In the fall of 19 12 the corner stone was laid by Bishop Ward. A few months later on account of a defective flue the brick veneer house burned down and was replaced with a stone structure in harmony with the new church. The new church was finished and dedicated on May 10, 1916, by Bishop Ward, in presence of a large concourse of people from far and near, and assisted by twenty-two priests of the diocese.


The Catholic church known as the Church of the Holy Family, in Summerfield, was built in the same year that the town was built 1889. Father John Hurley, pastor of St. Bridget church, from which the Summerfield church was attended, was the first pastor and he it was who built the church. He attended the parish until his removal from St. Bridget about the year 1895. Rev. Patrick O'Sullivan succeeded him as pastor of St. Bridget and also attended the Summerfield parish until the year 1907, when Rev. Clarence Bradley was appointed as the first permanent pastor. He attended the parish for almost two years, during which time he built the parish house.


St. Michael's congregation was organized by Rev. Timothy Duber, O. S. B., and the church was built in 1883. Up to this time the scattered Catholics in and around Axtell attended service at St. Bridget, six miles north. From 1884 to 1886 Father Martin, O. S. B., and Father Rettle, O. S. B., attended to the flock.

In the year 1890 Father Hurley built the parochial residence and moved the church to a new site in the northeast part of town. In 1891 Father Bononcini built a small parochial school and procured a bell. In 1894, not having sufficient children, the parochial school was abandoned. From 1894 to 1898 Father Shields, Father Hiawalka and Father O' Sullivan had charge of Axtell. Father J. N. Burk was appointed pastor of Axtell in 1898 and remained for five years until in 1903, when Father Taton, the present pastor, took charge of affairs.

The first church ground was donated by Michael Murray in block 2, east of Barnes Hall. In 1890 the lots were sold and the church moved to a new site purchased from Mrs. Catherine Murray. It was during this time that A. P. Cetmer caused some religious disturbance among the citizens of Axtell.

In 1901 Rev. M. Burk began arrangements for the erection of a new church and in June of the same year purchased block 13 for a new church site. The foundation for the new church was laid in the spring of 1903 and the corner stone was laid by Rt. Rev. Bishop Lillis in May, 1904. Before the foundations were completed. Father Burk was removed. Father Taton, after some changes in the plans, finished the beautiful St. Michael's church in 1905. In 1909 Father Taton started the erection of a new parish house, which is the pride of the town. In 1913 the foundations were laid for a parochial school. The contract for the school and hall was let in the spring of 1917. The Catholic cemetery dates back to the year 1886.


The first settler in rind near Waterville came to that locality in 1856, twelve years or more before the railroad was built and the town laid out. The first pioneers, who were Catholics and located in that vicinity, where the Casey, Oliver and Smith families, who came in 1858. The nearest Catholic church was at Atchison, one hundred miles away.

A few years later, the pioneer priests followed the pioneer settler. Irish creek and St. Bridget received pastors and the neighboring towns and adjoining counties were attended from there. It was not until 1866 or 1867 that Father Fitzgerald, of Irish creek, visited the settlement in the southwestern part of the county and celebrated the first mass at the Casey home, a mile east of the present Waterville.

After the railroad came in 1868, services were held once a month in the Sexton house, which was occupied l)y Mr. Brady. In 1870, Father Pichler, of Hanover, attended Waterville for a time. Later, Waterville was annexed to Frankfort, Greenleaf, Parsons creek and Kimeo. Fathers Weikmann, Hoffman and Groeters said mass on weekdays for many years. The services were held at the John Ready home west of town. From 1896 to 1898 no regular services were held. The chalice, vestments, candlesticks, etc., were kept at the Ready residence.

In June, 1903, during the high water in the Little Blue river, a pretended Dominican priest, or brother, arrived in Waterville, and stayed a few days at the home of Mrs. Ready. On leaving, he asked Mrs. Ready for the mission articles, and she having full confidence in his being a priest, let him have them. This supposed Dominican was never heard of again, and thus every vestige of the earliest missionary life at Waterville disappeared.

On February 10, 1908, a meeting was called by Rev. August Redeker, of Marysville, to consider the proposition of erecting a church. At this meeting there were present: Isidor Schmieder, R. Ready, Henry Mentgen, George Casey, Joseph and Phil. Tommer, John Stengelmeier, James Real, Mrs. Kiefer and Mr. and Mrs. George Swanson. Three hundred and seventy-five dollars was subscribed and three building lots were bought.

On August 3, 1908, mass was celebrated at the George Casey home, and a meeting was held for the consideration of plans for the new church. About forty members were present at this meeting, a subscription list was headed by Isidore Schmieder with five hundred dollars, and one thousand six hundred and seventy-five dollars was subscribed at this meeting.


The plans of Architect Wilson Hunt, of Kansas City, Missouri, for a frame structure, thirty-five by seventy-five feet, were adopted; the contract for the foundation was let to George Casey for four hundred and twenty-eight dollars, for the framework to Orin Ivers, of Axtell, for three thousand one hundred dollars. The building was completed in 1909, and on August 1st of that year Rev. Francis Elast was appointed the first parish priest for Waterville and missions, who soon raised money enough to build a parish house, which was completed in the fall of 1909.

The church and parish house were not dedicated until May 2, 191 1, by the Rt. Rev. John Ward. The church was given the name of St. Monica. Monica was the name of the mother of Isidore Schmieder, whose generosity made it possible to build the church. Next to Mr. Schmieder, Mrs. Elizabeth Gleason deserves special recognition for her untiring efforts in behalf of this church.

In September, 19 12, Father Elast was succeeded by Father M. O'Leary, who was followed in July, 1913, by Father David Hall, and in April, 1915, Father Hall was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. P. Mclnerney.


The Catholic congregation at Irving is the youngest of all the Catholic congregations in the county. When the Catholic church in Waterville was being built in 1909, the Rt. Rev. Thomas Lillis requested the Rev. A. Redeker, of Marysville, to organize or build or buy a church at Irving and unite the Catholics at Springside in Pottawatomie county and those near Irving. The time for this work did not arrive until 1912.

On August 28th, 19 12, Rev. August Redeker conducted services at the Bohemian settlement, eight miles southwest of Irving, in place of Rev. F. Elast, their regular pastor. Rev. A. Redeker spoke to the members of St. Wenceslaus parish about moving the church to Irving or to build a new church at that place. Two weeks later he conducted the services again and a vote was taken by the members upon the question; it was voted not to move St. Wenceslaus church. Thereupon, the plan to build a new church at Irving was taken up. Two lots were generously donated by the late James Denton and two lots by a lady at Irving. The lots selected were those on Main street, one block from the business section. The subscription list was headed by Herman Fegner, with five hundred dollars, and more than two thousand four hundred dollars was subscribed in a short time.

At a meeting in the residence of John Forest, it was decided to adopt the Waterville church plan with some modifications, and Herman Fegner, John Forest, and Mr. Wacek were appointed a committee. In October and November, 191 2, the members hauled the sand gratis from the river and dug the basement and built the foundation of the new church. In the meantime. Father M. O'Leary had been appointed pastor and took charge of the building of the church.


The church was to be a frame structure, thirty-six by seventy-five feet, and the contract was let to Mr. Skillen, of Frankfort, Kansas. The church was built in the winter and spring of 1913.

On Thursday, June 5, 1913, in the presence of a large gathering of people, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Ward, D. D., assisted by a dozen priests, dedicated the church to the service of God. The church was given the name of St. Elizabeth, in compliment to H. Fegner's mother, whose name was Elizabeth. This privilege was granted him because of his being the largest donor to the new church. The congregation consists of twenty-five families, attended regularly from Waterville.

In the fall of 1913, Father O'Leary was succeeded by Rev. David Hall. In April, 1916, Father Patrick Mclnerney took charge of the congregation, paid off the debt and put the congregation on a solid financial basis.


In the pioneer days the Catholics who lived in and near Beattie attended services at St. Bridget and Irish creek in this county. In the year 1879, Father William Fitzgerald, pastor at Irish creek, organized the Beattie congregation. At that time the following Catholics lived in or near Beattie; Mrs. A. Wuster, P. Smith, Nicholas Orr, P. O'Neil, D. R. Cottrell, J. O'Neil, P. Pitsch, P. Finnigan, J. Gardner, Thomas Koenig, Thomas McMahon, James McDonald, James Fitzgerald, P. AIcMahon, John Kraemer, G. Koch, Mr. Renger, R. Cosgrove and O. Heandley.

In 1879 a ten-acre tract of land was bought for a cemetery, north of Beattie. The next year Father William Fitzgerald, with the aid of the above mentioned persons and their families, began the erection of St. Malachy's church. The lots on which the church was erected were donated by Mr. and Mrs. James Fitzgerald, the brother of Father William Fitzgerald. The building cost about three thousand dollars. Before the church was completed, Father Fitzgerald died on November 29, 1881. Father Bernard Hudson completed the church and took charge of the congregation for a short time after the death of Father Fitzgerald. Father Daily succeeded Father Hudson in 1882 and had charge of the congregation until 1883, when Beattie was attached to Marysville and Father M. A. Meile took hold of affairs. In September, 1885, Father Meile, on account of ill health, resigned, and Father John Hartman succeeded him. From August 14, 1886, until 1895, Rev. M. J. Schmickler attended Beattie twice a month from Marysville. In Septemljer, 1895. Beattie was attached to Axtell, as a mission in charge of Father F. S. Hawelka until January, 1898, when Beattie was attended by Father P. R. O'Sullivan, of St. Bridget, for several months.

From May, 1898, until 1903, Father M. Burk, of Axtell, had charge of the congregation. In August, 1903, Father Francis Taton began the erection of the parish house and upon its completion Beattie was given its first resident pastor, Father M. J. Galvin, October 12, 1907. August 4, 1910, Father Galvin was succeeded by Father J. J. Ryan, who was compelled to leave on account of ill health and was followed by Father H. A. McDevitt, March 13, 1914. He labored as pastor of Beattie until March 8, 1916, when the present pastor, Father Theol. P. Schwam, took charge.


The first settlement of St. Bridget parish was made in 1857, when Philip Coffey, Owen Reilly, Elizabeth Hoffman, Eli Tripp and Jacob Straub headed westward in search of homes, and like all early settlers, the one thing most necessary was timber to build their dwellings, shelter for stock and for fuel. Hence, the first settlements are found in the timbered sections of the county.

In 1858 the following persons and their families settled in St. Bridget: John Coughlin, Michael Shaughnessy, Peter Lynch, John Smith, Michael Murray, Patrick Hughes, Thomas Loob, Michael Maddigan. Between 1858 and 1 86 1 came Patrick McGrath, James Carroll, John Gossin. Sylvester Creevan, John Clark and Bernard Gallagher and formed the nucleus around which gathered the present Catholic community.

The hardships endured by these pioneers were many and severe, but the truly charitable spirit and the indissoluble bond of brotherhood had so united them in their efforts, that the burden of one was the burden of all and no sacrifice was too great in their efforts to alleviate the suffering of a neighbor in sickness or distress.


The one great hope of this Irish colony had not as yet been realized. They had no church and no priest to preach to them the gospel of truth, so firmly planted in their minds and hearts in the land of their birth. But their hopes were brightened when in May, 1859, Father Edmond, a missionary, said the first mass in St. Bridget in the home of John Coughlin, and it is generally believed that was the first time the holy sacrifice of the mass was offered up in Marshall county.

As each new settler arrived, the homes of those who came before were thrown open and he and his family were invited to share their humble abode until such time as he could provide a shelter, which was done by the neighbors gathering together, cutting and hauling the logs and helping build the house. Another family, another home, was added to the little colony, and as one old settler remarked, "How the people of St. Bridget should love each other for the kindness of those days."

In 1862 the first church organization was affected under the direction of Father John, O. S. B., who made his home at St. Benedict, and visited the parish from time to time. A charter was taken out with the following charter members : John Gossin, John Clark, Peter Lynch, Michael Maddigan, Michael Murray, William P. Madden and James Carroll. A log church was built, but before it was completed it was burned, supposed to have been done by incendiaries.


In 1863-64 the first frame church was built on the site where the cemetery now is, but afterwards moved to where the present church stands. This building also served as a school house for many years. The first resident priests in St. Bridget were : Father William Fitgerald and Father Fogerty. During their stay, from 1865 to 1869, they built a parish house, which was destroyed by fire in 1869.

From 1869 to 1871 the parish was attended by missionaries. In 1871 Father Stittberth, O. S. B., from Atchison, became resident priest and began the erection of the stone church, thirty by sixty feet, which was completed in 1875. Patrick Hughes donated the stone used in the church, each member hauling one cord; Phillip Coffey donated the plastering, James Carroll and John Stohl did the mason work.

In 1876 and 1877 the parish was attended by Fathers Eugene, Theodocis and Boniface. In 1877 Father Timothy took charge of the parish, remained until 1883 and during his stay erected a twelve-room parish house at a cost of three thousand dollars, which is now used for a sisters' house. Too much could not be said in praise of this pious, zealous man, who was ever striving for the moral and social uplift of his parish. Brother Lambert served as his housekeeper and spent much of his time in the care of the grounds, which he converted into a veritable flower garden. From 1883 to 1884 Father William Bettele was in charge and in August, 1884, Rev. John Hurley took charge, remaining until February, 1896, a period of twelve years. Then came Father Patrick R. O'Sullivan, in 1896, and remained until 1908.


Father O' Sullivan was an earnest and faithful worker. By his efforts he succeeded in building the present handsome brick church, fifty by one hundred feet, at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars, the pride of the parish and a monument to the self-sacrificing pioneers of St. Bridget.

Before the church was quite complete Father O'Sullivan was moved to Lillis and Rev. P. R. McNamara was sent to take up the work where Father O'Sullivan left off, which he did by plastering the church, installing beautiful stained glass windows and interior furnishings. The new church was dedicated by Rt. Rev. Bishop Lillis, September 3, 1909. Father McNamara remained until 19 10, when Father Geinetz was appointed, serving one year. In 191 1 Father McManus was appointed and during his stay he established the sisters' school in St. Bridget, which is giving the children the advantage of a two-teacher school, also the opportunity of a musical education, which is not easily obtained in a rural community.

In 1913 Rev. Michael O'Leary took charge, serving until 1916. During his stay in St. Bridget he erected a modern parish house at a cost of four thousand dollars. In 19 16 Father Murphy took charge and is now the resident priest.

This sketch of St. Bridget would be incomplete without mention of that patriotic Irishman, Thomas Hynes, who came to St. Bridget about 1865. Mr. Hynes was a graduate of St. Benedict College, Atchison, and served as teacher in our schools for several years. He was foremost in everv public enterprise and had charge of the mail route in this section of the country for several years. About 1877 he moved to Axtell and engaged in the drug business.

Michael Murray, one of the charter members of the church, conducted a general store in St. Bridget from 1865 to 1877, when he moved to Axtell to continue the business there. Murray township was named for Michael Murray.

One of the pioneers worthy of mention is Michael Maddigan, who before his death willed one hundred and sixty acres of land to St. Bridget parish, to be used for the benefit of the church.


The history of Annunciation parish dates back to the early days of 1880, when the first humble church was erected by Rev. Father William Fitzgerald, then resident pastor of St. Joseph's church on Irish creek. The parish then numbered about seventeen families. The church was attended by the priests from St. Joseph's church up to the year 1888, when Rev. Father P. Kloss was placed in charge of the Frankfort parish. In the year 1889, Father Kloss erected a parish house, but in the year 1890 the Frankfort and Irish creek parishes w-ere again united, the priest residing at Frankfort.

The priests who have had charge of the parish at various times are the following : Fathers William Fitzgerald, Bernard Hudson, J. Daly, A. M. Meile, William Stack, John Begley, John Ward (now bishop), P. Kloss, T. Butler, Sylvester Meehan, A. W. Jennings, William Michel, F. Kulicek, Francis Orr and C. A. Bradley.

In the year 1900, Rev. Father Michel being pastor, the first church building w'as disposed of, and a larger church erected on a site east of the original location. The corner stone of this building was laid on Sunday, July 15, 1900, by the pastor. Father Michel. The church committeemen then in office were Matt Peril, Thomas Ryan, James Gregg and Daniel Sullivan. The building committee was William Gregg and C. T. Hessel. The estimated cost of this second church was three thousand six hundred and fifty-four dollars. The parish then numbered about forty families. Rev. Father Francis Killicek was appointed rector of Annunciation parish in the year 1902, and while in charge, also tended the Bohemian mission church, seven miles south of Irving.


On November 4th, 1905, the church erected in 1900 was destroyed by fire, together with all equipment and furniture, not even the Blessed Sacrament being saved. The parish house built in 1889 was also destroyed in this same fire. Father Kulicek was then transferred to Kansas City, Kansas, and Father Michel was instructed by the bishop to erect another church and residence, while services were to be conducted by a Benedictine Father, from Atchison, for the time being. The contract price of the new church was four thousand three hundred dollars, and the amount for the residence was two thousand six hundred and seventy dollars. The four thousand three hundred dollars did not include the foundation of the church, which was to be a duplicate of the one built in 1900. The corner stone of this third church was laid on the 30th of March, 1906, by Rev. William Michel, and on the building committee were C. T. Hessel, William Gregg, Michael Griffin and John Ahern, Alfred Meier, of St. Joseph, Missouri, was the architect in charge and Joseph Trompeter, of Effingham, Kansas, had the contract for all work. Immediately upon completion of the two buildings, which was about September, 1906, Rev. Francis M. Orr was appointed by Rt. Rev. Bishop Lillis as pastor of the parish.


At 7:30 o'clock, on the evening of Sunday, May 3, 1908, the church was struck by lightning, and church and residence were burned to the ground a complete loss. Disaster and misfortune had blighted the hopes of the brave, good people of the parish for the second time within two years, but far, indeed, from destroying them. Plans were immediately prepared, and funds raised to rebuild better and safer and more beautiful than ever. The buildings were to cost eleven thousand dollars with an additional cost of from four to five thousand dollars to complete them in every respect. The corner stone of this fourth church was laid in August, 1908, Rev. Father Orr presiding at the ceremony. The church committee at this time was James Gregg, Jeremiah O'Leary and James Kennedy, and the building committee consisted of the rector. Father Orr, William Gregg and Henry Kennedy. The construction work progressed without interruption, and on the morning of February 22. 1909, the beautiful church was solemnly dedicated by Rt. Rev. Thomas F. Lillis, bishop of the diocese.

The present edifice is a magnificent building of clearest white limestone, designed in the Roman style of architecture, with slate roof, ornamental stained glass windows and stately bell tower. The interior and its appointments are complete, rich and tasteful, yet withal, calculated to inspire religious fervor and devotion. In every respect the church stands a model of beauty and strength, and reflects greatest credit on both the builder. Father Orr, and the noble, generous-hearted parishioners, who sacrificed much to insure its completion.

Father Orr continued in charge of the parish until June, 191 1, when he was appointed as pastor of St. Peter's parish in Kansas City, Kansas. Rev. Father C. A. Bradley was then appointed by Rt. Rev. Bishop Ward, as pastor, and entered upon his duties on the last Sunday of June, 1911. Since that time various improvements have been made, most important of which was the frescoing of the church during the summer of 1912. The basement of the church has also been fitted up into an assembly room. Despite the fact that many of the early pioneer members of the parish have passed away, and the parish roster contains a changed order of names, its strength and vigor have increased, and the membership now numbers seventy-five families. There is no debt or incumbrance on the property or buildings.


The two localities where Catholics settled in early days and formed colonies were Irish creek in the southeast and St. Bridget in the northeast of the county. However, there were Catholic families located in every township in the county. Some of the first Catholic families who came in early days, and located within the present limits of St. Gregory's parish were: Nic Koppes, Jacob Morbacher, Sr., with thirteen children; Patrick Haynes, John Reiter, Thomas McCoy, Louis and Frank Hanke, John Joerg, Sr., John Kirch, Mathias Schmitt. James Grey, Peter Koppes, Joseph Ellenbecker and others.

The first Catholic priest that held divine service among the scattered Catholics around Marysville, was Rev. Father Thomas Bartel, O. S. B. His presence was hailed with joy by the handful of Catholics. Father Bartel was succeeded by Rev. Theodore Heinemann, of St. Mary's, Kansas, in 1862.

During the Civil war many men joined the army, the farms were neglected, crops failed and business was poor. The good priest made his appearance about every two or three months. In 1863 and 1864 service was conducted several times by Father Jones, of St. Mary's, Kansas. Father Suitbert De Marteau, of Atchison, had charge of Marysville in 1865. From 1865-67, Marysville was regularly visited by Fathers Fitzgerald and Fogarty, both being stationed at St. Bridget and Irish creek in Marshall county.


In 1867 Rev. Father Riemele took charge of this locality and services were conducted more frequently. Traveling on horseback from St. Mary's, the good priest would halt at every pioneer's cabin door to ask if any Catholic lived there. If he found any, he would tell them when and where mass would be said the next morning. Sometimes, Catholics living fifteen miles away would be notified and summoned to come to service. For nine or ten years the Jacob Mohrbacher home, south of Marysville, was the resting place of the poor priest in the days of pioneer life, and mass was generally celebrated there. Rev. Father Riemele was again succeeded by Father Suitbert, who attended this mission from St. Bridget for more than two years, until 1874. Father Suitbert tried hard to build a church and had several meetings to bring the Catholics together, but failed. He collected some money in 1871 and 1872, but when the farmers even charged for hauling rock, he felt disappointed and dropped the undertaking. The "salary" of the priest in those days consisted of the few nickels that were thrown into the collection box; many a time the amount did not reach the sum of fifty cents.


Services were now held in the town of Marysville in a vacant carpenter shop, at the west end of Broadway. Rev. A. M. Weikmann was next in charge of the place. He was stationed at Parsons creek, now Palmer, Washington county. He made an attempt to build a church and laid a part of the foundation, when he was succeeded by Rev. John Pichler, of Hanover, in 1875. During Father Weikmann's time, a mission was given by Father Timothy Luber and Father Peter Kassens, at the close of which a class of ten received their first holy communion. The mission lasted four days the first day at the public school house, the three following days over Watterson's store. Perry Hutchison offered to give three acres of ground on the west side of the river near the mill for the building- of a Catholic church, But the offer was not accepted. Had a church been built there and the postoffice removed to the west side, the town of Marysville might be today on the west bank of the Big Blue. Mr. Schmidt and Charles F. Koester gave a block of ground east of the present standpipe to the Catholics for the location of a church. The location, however, did not suit the membership, as it was too far out of town. The foundation was started but never finished, and a more suitable location was picked out by the consultors. About eighty dollars had been spent on the foundation, when the idea to build a church there was given up.

The place chosen for the new church was block 36 in Ballard's & Morrall's Addition, in the town of Marysville. Father Pichler now set to work and built a neat little brick church, twenty-four by fifty feet, on the new site. The building was never plastered inside, and was used only a few years for services. The altar pf the church was made out of a dry goods box. No pews were set up in the church and the farmers used to bring their chairs along to church service. On account of the steep bank of Spring creek, nearby, many were dissatisfied with this location. As the building and lots could be sold at an advantage, the property was disposed of and another site, near the present depot, where the Hartwick lumber yard now stands, was selected by Father Pichler. A new frame church was erected on these lots in the year 1877-78. Here services were conducted until 1886, when the building and lots were sold.

From 1870 to 1880 the number of Catholic families increased greatly. The newcomers, however, were poor, and drought, hot winds and the grasshoppers in 1874 were calamities that befell them and gave the state a bad name. "Ad Astra per Aspera" is the Kansas motto, and those settlers who went through the hardships and stayed on their farms are today wealthy.

On December 1, 1883, Rev. John Pichler was followed by Father Meile, who became the first resident pastor of St. Gregory's congregation. A house was rented for the pastor near the church. Father Meile stayed until the end of August, 1885. He was a noble priest, loved by all the Catholics and non-Catholics of Marysville. Being a convert to the Catholic church, he knew how to handle both classes. He occupied his time in instructing the children and looking after the spiritual welfare of the flock. The church being again too small to accommodate the growing congregation, the building of a new church was again considered. Many were of the opinion that the present location was not a suitable place for the new church. The committee, consisting of Jacob Ring, W. Dougherty, Nic Schmitt, Jacob Mohrbacher and John Tracy, headed by Father Meile, selected the present beautiful site.


On the 30th of August, 1885, Rev. Father Meile gave place to Father Hartmann, during whose administration the foundation of the present church was laid, but not quite completed. On November 16. 1885, Father Hartmann held the first Catholic fair in Marysville; proceeds, one thousand five hundred and twelve dollars, of which one thousand two hundred and forty-six was net. The account books of Father Hartmann, on August 15, 1886, show a cash balance on hand of six hundred and eight dollars and four cents; notes from pew rent, thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents; notes from new church building, seven hundred and fifty-six dollars and seventy-four cents; in all, one thousand four hundred and two dollars and twenty-eight cents. This statement was signed by the pastor and the following committeemen: Jacob Mohrbacher, Nic Koppes, Jacob Ring. The records of baptism go back to December 23, 1883. Previous records are found at Atchison, St. Mary's, St. Bridget. Irish creek and Hanover.

On August 15, 1886, Father F. J. Hartmann was replaced by Rev. M. J. Schmickler, who completed the foundation of the new church. The corner stone was laid by Rt. Rev. Bishop Fink on October 9, 1886. The great ambition of Father Schmickler was to see the church completed and to erect a building that would be a credit to himself and to the good people of Marysville. The dimensions of the church are fifty by one hundred feet, with a ten-foot projection of the tower. The foundation and basement of the church cost four thousand nine hundred dollars. As the crops failed for several years, the church could not be built as soon as the pastor would have liked, but, in the meantime, money was collected and fairs were held, so that on January 1, 1892, about four thousand dollars was on hand. From the sale of the old church, near the depot, one thousand eight hundred dollars were realized. With this money, together with a new subscription, the church could be brought under roof and almost free of debt. From the year 1892-93, eight thousand forty-eight dollars and sixty cents were expended for the new church. W. Dougherty got the contract for all the brick work for three thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine dollars; M. Treinen. the. carpenter work for three thousand eight hundred dollars. The church was, however, not completed until the year 1894. The contract to plaster it was given to J. F. Webb at one thousand and twenty-five dollars; the finishing carpenter work, to M. Treinen at three hundred and thirty-six dollars.


All these years divine services were held in the basement of the church. There was as yet no furniture in the church, no pews, no altars, no communion railing. Mr. Bauhaus, of Leavenworth, agreed to furnish pews, altars and railing for the sum of one thousand four hundred dollars, excluding the statue of St. Gregory, which cost eighty-five dollars; St. James, sixty-eight dollars; St. Barbara, sixty-eight dollars. The two vestment cases in the sacristy cost sixty dollars. Many beautiful vestments, albs, candlesticks, etc., were then bought. The day of the dedication, for which the pastor and people had so earnestly longed, at last came. October 24, 1898, was a gala day for Marysville, and for St. Gregory's parish especially one that will long be remembered by the young and the old who took part. The Rt. Rev. Bishop Fink, of Leavenworth, dedicated the church and administered the sacrament of confirmation. Rev. John Hurley, of St. Bridget, delivered the dedication sermon in English, and Rev. W. Schellberg of Hanover, in German, whereupon the Rt. Rev. Bishop congratulated the pastor and the people upon the completion of the beautiful church. The following assisted at the ceremonies: Rev. W. Schellberg, Rev. J. Hurley. Reverend Schwamm, Reverend Groener, Reverend Grootaers, Reverend Kamp, Reverend Leidecker and Reverend Cihal. At two o'clock p. m., some one hundred persons were confirmed by the bishop, after which the day's festivities closed, with vespers and benediction. A special train from Hanover and Seneca conveyed many visitors to the dedication services. More than four hundred and fifty people came from Hanover.


In early days the lodging place of the priest was generally some pioneer's cabin, but he was often obliged to sleep outside, with nothing but the canopy above him. Conditions became better the more the country was settled. The first resident priest. Father Meile, had rented a house near the church; afterward he lived in the old stone house south of the present parsonage, which was torn down in July, 1906. Father Hartmann and Father Schmickler also lived in the same quarters in the old stone house on the hill. When the basement was built in 1886, Father Schmickler reserved two rooms in the southwest part of the church, where he lived until the year 1898. In the year 1891 he bought the south half of block 101, on which the parsonage now stands, together with the old stone house, for the sum of one thousand four hundred and twenty dollars. On March 6, 1895, Mr. Michael Kimmish died, leaving to the church about four thousand dollars. It was no more than right that the pastor who had completed the church, should now consider the erection of a new parsonage. Hence, plans were drawn up by Mr. Grant, of Beatrice, Nebraska, and the contract was let in the spring of 1898. The brick and stone work was awarded to W. Dougherty for one thousand three hundred and seventy-five dollars. Hayward & Ivers, of Axtell, agreed to complete the building, including all the material, for two thousand one hundred and forty-five dollars. The beautiful Catholic parsonage is one of the finest dwellings in the city of Marysville, a credit to the town and to the Catholic people.

In May, 1903. Rev. Aug. Redeker succeeded Father Schmickler. A debt of two thousand four hundred and fifty-four dollars resting on the church was paid off. The same year he procured three sisters from Atchison to teach the parochial school.

In 1904 three new bells were bought for the church and blessed by Rt. Rev. Bishop Fink on February 28th. On August 8, 1905, the first ground was broken for the foundation of a new parochial school and society hall. The school house was built at a cost of nine thousand dollars all complete. It was dedicated by Rt. Rev. Bishop Lillis, October 20, 1906. The sidewalks to the west were laid in 1895, but those to the southeast and north not until 1913. In 1911 lightning had struck the tower and it was decided to finish the spire of the church, which was done in that year.


Eight miles southwest of Irving, on the Riley county line, stands a neat little church dedicated to St. Wenceslaus, the great Bohemian saint. The congregation was organized and a frame church, twenty by thirty feet, erected by Father Klaus in the year 1884. Father Klaus was at that time stationed at Frankfort. The church grounds and cemetery, on the south- east corner of section 32 in Blue Rapids township, consisting of two acres, were donated by the Frank Forst family.

The early Catholic settlers of this section were the Katopish. Forst, Osner, Smutny, Duchek, Zeleny, Nedvid, Kropacek, Karek, Kratochvil, Nerad and Hnat families.

For a number of years the congregation was attended by the following priests: Reverends Klaus. Dragoon, Chial, Kulizek, and Father Alphons, O. S. B., from Atchison.

In the spring of 1906 Father Kulizek, who was stationed at Frankfort, built a new church to replace the old one. which had become too small. The church was dedicated on September 28, 1906, by Father Kulizek. In August, 1909, the Rt. Rev. Bishop sent Father Francis Elast to Waterville, with the St. Wenceslaus congregation as a mission. In 1910 a church bell was procured and blessed by the pastor. Father Elast was followed by Father O'Leary, Father Hall and the present pastor. Father Thomas Mclnerney. The congregation is regularly attended once a month from Waterville and, although small, has a substantial growth.


A Catholic church was built about 1870 and services held once a month for about one year, Rev. Father Rutler having charge. Later, the building was sold to F. W. Watson, the members transferring their membership to Axtell, Coal creek and Lillis, where there were prosperous church organizations.

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This website created July 4, 2011 by Sheryl McClure.
2011 Kansas History and Heritage Project